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Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

A Craigslist Wedding

Harbinger

Tuesday afternoon, the corner of King and Dufferin

Brah,” said the panhandler as I handed him a loonie, “you look just like the dude from Star Trek: Voyager.”

“You mean Harry Kim?” I asked.

(For reference, here are photos of Harry Kim — played by actor Garrett Wang — and Yours Truly, side by side..)

Photos comparing Harry Kim and Joey deVilla

Perhaps he’d been hitting the ‘Strene too hard, I thought. Then again, a perfectly sober guy in San Mateo recently told me that I was the spitting image of David Suzuki.

“Thanks for the money, Mistah Harry Kim. And know this…”

Oh yeah, I thought, heavily into the ‘Strene. Who, outside of comic books, badly written sci-fi and maybe a couple of rap records says “And know this” followed by a dramatic pause?

“…you gonna do someone else a favour reeeeeal soon, and it’ll be mad good karma fo’ yo’ ass. I see mad karma in your fyoo-chah! MAD KARMA!

And then he bolted across the street and into Burger King.

I shook my head and went back to the office.

An Unusual Ad

Wednesday evening, our living room

“Hey,” said the Ginger Ninja, who was sitting on the couch, sifting through Craigslist Toronto for yard sales. “Get a look at this.”

She pointed at her laptop’s screen, which displayed this ad:

The “Be Part of Our Wedding” Craigslist ad

We are two young women who are coming from America to get married, have it scheduled for this Friday and are looking for two volunteers to serve as witnesses at the ceremony at 6pm. It should be very brief.

We’ve been together for a while, are completely in love, but our families are very religious and do not support same-sex unions, and we are just looking for two individuals to help us make it “official.”

If you are available to be at Toronto City Hall this Friday (June 8th) at 5:30pm, we would greatly appreciate it. And hey, the more the merrier…if you want to bring friends – we have absolutely no objection.

“Hmm,” I said. “Sounds interesting. I could stand to do a good deed. Did you want to go?”

“Yeah,” she said. “It sounds like it would be a good thing to do.”

“Okay, let’s go. There’ll still be plenty of time to catch the movie [we were planning to see Knocked Up] and dinner afterwards.”

A Whim

Friday morning, home

Maybe I’m becoming an old fuddy-duddy, but I just can’t bring myself to wear sneakers except for hitting the gym. Doc Martens are as casual as I go footwear-wise.

I was about to put on my regular “dragon shoes”…

My dragon shoes

…when I decided “Hey, City Hall or not, it’s a wedding”, and opted to put on a dressier, if not as flashy, pair.

As I put on my shoes, I saw the accordion, which I’d left in the living room.

Hey, now there’s an idea, I thought.

I grabbed it and headed out the door.

Prelude

Third Floor, East Tower, New City Hall, 5:00 p.m.

Wendy must be rubbing off on me, because I arrived early.

I was in the waiting area outside the marriage centre. On one side of the room were three bureaucratic-waiting-room-issue chairs; on the other side was a table with a dispenser full of little blue pamphlets. I took one, half-expecting it to say something like “So you’ve ruined your life…”, but it turned out to be an advertisement for wedding services: quick, cheap and ready to fill whatever cultural, spiritual and socio-politico-complexo-migraino criteria you had.

I took a seat and cracked open my laptop to kill some time. As I sat, a group of people — presumably a bride, groom and a couple of witnesses emerged from the marriage centre. The groom noticed the accordion at my feet.

“I wish I’d seen you earlier!” he said. “We could’ve used you.”

He and his group disappeared into the elevator.

A couple of women emerged from the marriage center a minute later and also went straight to the elevator. I assumed that they were part of the group.

The women who headed for the elevator.

Meeting the Gang

A few minutes later, a guy in a white suit, pink shirt and tie and white shoes emerged from the elevator.

I wonder who’d have killed me faster if I showed up at my wedding in that getup, I thought. My mother, or my mother-in-law?

Wendy then arrived, followed by the two women whom I’d seen earlier.

“Are you Julie?” asked Wendy.

“Yes,” replied the black-haired one, and introductions were made.

They were Julie and Amanda. They live in Philadelphia, from where’d they’d left at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. They’d driven all night and crashed at a hotel in Burlington, where they managed to get a couple of hours’ sleep.

I sort of had an idea of how they probably felt. I probably had less than the optimal amount of sleep the night before my wedding, having consumed a lot of beer with Rannie, Jay and Eldon at John Harvard’s the night before.

As far as they were concerned, this was just the “paperwork” part of their getting married. What they actually consider to be the real wedding ceremony will take place next month in Philly and be officiated by a minister of the United Church and attended by their family and friends.

We hit it off with them immediately, and there was none of that “okay on the internet, icky in real life” vibe that sometimes happens, so we decided to stay and follow through.

“We didn’t know if anyone would reply to the ad,” Julie said, “so we’re glad that you and a couple of other people answered.”

“And then with the rain,” said Amanda, pointing to the downpour outside the window, “we were worried if anyone would show up.”

In fact, two more people did show up — Allison, a student from California, followed by M., who worked at a law firm. Our group was now two-thirds American citizens.

“I brought a camera,” I said, “and I also brought this, I said, as I picked up my accordion to show it to Julie and Amanda.

They seemed like the sort of people cool enough to appreciate this sort of thing. The look on their faces was of pleasant surprise and not of abject horror, so it became pretty clear that I was going to do the music.

“I have zero polka skills,” I continued, “I’m more of a rock and pop guy. I’m thinking we should just forget the traditional wedding march…how d’you feel about Praise You by Fatboy Slim?”

“That would be amazing!” they said.

At that point, Amanda said “I just wish that there was someone here to blog all this,” completely unaware of the background of the accordion player at her wedding.

“This is your lucky day,” said Wendy, with a chuckle, after which she explained.

The wedding of the guy in the white suit and pink tie ended minutes later, and after his group of about two dozen disappeared into the elevators, the officiant, whose name escapes me, told us to come inside.

Only two witnesses were needed to sign the paperwork, so Wendy and Allison were the official witnesses.

“I see we won’t need to use the CD player for this one,” the officiant said, spotting the accordion. “This will certainly be different.”

The Ceremony

I could go on about how nice the ceremony was, but I think I’ll let the photos do the talking…

ceremony-11.jpg

ceremony-11.jpg

ceremony-11.jpg

ceremony-11.jpg

They saved their vows and rings for the real wedding, but the boilerplate vows in the generic template that the officiant used in this ceremony were pretty nice; much nicer than I expected.

I managed to get some video of Amanda’s vows:

We four guests snapped as many pictures as we could.

ceremony-11.jpg

ceremony-11.jpg

ceremony-11.jpg

After the “you may now kiss” part, I fired up the squeezebox and broke into Praise You, which got the girls dancing:

Praise You

Wendy managed to get some video of the tail end of Praise You, which I continued to play as Julie and Amanda signed their wedding license. During the license-signing part, I went instrumental, but there’s a little bit of singing in the refrain:

Unfortunately, there’s no video of me shifting into Rockafeller Skank, with the lyrics changed to:

Right about now
The funk soul sisters!
Check it out now
The funk soul sisters!

What’s Bloggable?

After the officiant wrapped up (I wish I could remember her name; she was very nice, and a big fan of the accordion to boot), I asked Amanda and Julie a question.

“So, guys, of all this — what’s bloggable?”

“What do you mean?” asked Amanda in reply.

“Can I write about this, use your real names, post pictures, post video and so on?”

After thinking about it for a moment, they replied “everything”. We agreed that I’d use just their first names, but aside from that, the whole thing was fair game for blogging.

The “Reception”

With the ceremony wrapped up, we left City Hall. It had stopped raining, so we walked across Nathan Philips Square.

“So what are you doing now?” I asked the newlyweds.

They replied that they were going to look around for a bit.

“At least let us buy you a drink,” said Wendy. “That was the first thing I needed after our ceremony was over.”

“I know just the place,” I said.

I led the gang to Smokeless Joe, a place with a lot of character and some personal history to boot, being the starting point for a couple of accordion-fueled adventures and the first place I ever took Wendy to when she first came to Toronto.

We sat down at the bar and placed our order. Julie, Amanda and I had some of County Durham Brewing’s Black Katt, one of my favourites. I can’t recall what Wendy ordered and Allison had an exotically red beer.

(It’s a pity Joe wasn’t there, as he’s given me a few free pints on special occasions, such as the time I got engaged, or that one time when I came to the bar and was looking really, really mopey. Discount or no, I’d love to have introduced him.)

We talked about all sorts of things. We found out that Julie and Amanda met through their LiveJournals (LiveJournal — it’s not just for writing about cutting yourself or hiring people to off your mom anymore!), that Amanda has lived in many places and that their age difference is similar to the one between me and Wendy. We spent our time trading stories and email addresses.

“We’re not holding you up from anything, are we?” asked Amanda. “I overhead that you two were going go for dinner and a movie tonight.”

“The movie will be there tomorrow,” I replied, “and it’ll eventually end up on DVD. This,” I said, gesturing all around us with my pint glass, “won’t ever happen again.”

post-ceremony.jpg

They’re a cute couple, and from what I can see, they’re very much in love. They’re also very nice people, and it’s a crying shame that they live so far away. I’m very glad that Wendy stumbled across their ad on Craigslist and that we took a chance and decided to show up at City Hall.

Julie and Amanda, thanks for letting us participate and for letting me provide the music! Wendy and I would like to wish you all the best in your future life together. May you live well, laugh often and love unconditionally. I salute the both of you with an accordion and a filet mignon on a flaming sword!

And to Craig Newmark, the Craig behind Craigslist: there’s another happy Craigslist ending.

117 replies on “A Craigslist Wedding”

Woohoo! Many thanks again for the strawberry beershake. :]

I have video of the ceremoney, bits & pieces throughout. I should figure out this apple of mine & put it to good use.

So, “A.”, can I change your name in the story from “A.” to Allison? I forgot to check with you to see if it was okay to use your name.

wow – joey, I can’t believe it all came together like this! What we thought was going to be an awkward meet and greet turned out to be a really great celebration we’ll remember for years to come…

If you are reading this blog, and don’t know this guy – find him. He’s the nicest, unassuming, generous person you’ll have the luck of meeting.

And…he plays a wicked accordian…

Thanks everyone – what an awesome event!

That was terrific.

It’s ironic that you’ve recently been re-posting “The Best of Accordion Guy.” This is surely a worthy addition to that list of classic accounts.

Excellent Joey! That was so great to read, I got all teary-eyed at the office.

sio.

I LOVED this. I linked to you from James’ blog, and this was such a great story. I love love love stories like this – and I’m so glad you’re sharing it with so many people.

This is awesome! You guys were the perfect couple to show up to help out this wedding. And score one more for LJ! I have several LJ friends in long-term relationships (and two who I saw married a few months ago) who met on LJ. AKMA is totally right. But you knew that. 😀

How sweet and inspiring! This post actually made me cry! The world can always use another happy LJ/Craigslist/Blogger story. Kudos to all of you and best wishes to the brides!

Great story. The happy couple is obviously the highlight of the story, but the best single line was “I just wish that there was someone here to blog all this”.

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You…..,
When the girls shared this link, I smiled.
Then I smiled some more. Then I laughed till tears flowed.
On reflection, my thought is that you guide your children to become independent, you may even hope that they have the courage to be unconventional.
That has happened and I am a very pleased father.

Joey!!! That was the loveliest piece of web journalism I’ve experienced in a long time. What I find admirable about you and Wendy is the way you share ideas with each other, translate them into action, and then complement one another in the translation at the other end. Thanks for the entertainment and ensuing contemplations.

I have sent this to nearly all of my family and friends and everyone uncategorically loved it (reference my father’s comment above).

Thank you, so much, Joey & Wendy, for being there- for being a part of this- for bringing a completely unexpected (and loved) accordian to add to the randomness of the day… thankyou thankyou thankyou.

That this is around out on the internet is only fitting, provided how Julie and I met, and how we came to find you two. All of our witnesses were awesome- and you’ll all be inextricably linked with our memories of this day.

And to all of the other commentators with well wishes- thanks. It moved us every bit as much and more as it moves you, now.

THANK YOU CRAIGSLIST!!! (And non sketchy CL responders!)

Congratulations, Julia and Amanda.

Joey, Thanks for sharing this wonderful, heartwarming story. It amazes me how much the ‘net helps bring people together who otherwise would never have met. I’m not one for long posts but you proved content really is king. Wonder how long it will take for someone to snap up the movie rights.

To you and Wendy, y’all rock seven different ways for doing this for a couple you didn’t know and for sharing the experience with all of us.

To the newlyweds, many blessings upon your house. If children are a part of your future, they will be blessed for coming into a loving home and family. Amanda, your father’s comment shows you come from a good family. It is a privilege to share your special moment. Thanks so much.

Who’ll play Joey and Wendy in the movie? Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore?

And Julie and Amanda can be played by Sarah Silverman and Jenna Fischer. Just because that would be cool.

That’s awesome! I saw the pictures before I read the article, and I was thinking, “I know that room.” Sure enough, that’s the same room in City Hall where my friends Donnie and Troy got married. We drove all the way up from North Carolina to get to Toronto, so we just made a vacation out of it.

I was one of the witnesses at that wedding, so this gives me a nice fuzzy feeling, hearing somebody else’s wedding story. Not to mention I’m getting married on Saturday, so I guess you could say I’ve got weddings on the brain. Congratulations, everybody!

You, my friend, are a mensch and what you did is a mitzvah. Bless you, and bless those lovely newly-married ladies. This has helped renew my faith in mankind — just a little, mind you, but enough so that I feel happy. Thank you.

Ditto what Queenofattolia said. What a fantastic experience, and you made a difference for two people at the right time. The world would be a far better place if we could all do likewise. Thank you for helping.

Howdy–

A good deed is the most important part, but a good deed well-documented is fun to share. Thank you for telling this story! And congratulations to the happy couple.

(I lived downstairs from Wendy in Somerville, and happened across her blog, and yours from there. Glad to see you guys are doing well.)

Wow. These comments are incredible. I had one of the loveliest Friday evenings ever at this wedding.

And sheesh, hi Mat, hope you’re well! Long time no hear from.

This brings back memories of my partner and I going to Toronto in October to do the very same thing.

Loved this story.

Henry

Can I get a witness?…

Earlier today Thom sent me this heartwarming story, which totally made me smile (and sniffle a little): “A Craigslist Wedding.” Love it. And “Praise You” on accordion? Yes…….

Wow, I can do nothing more than echo the praise and congratulations everyone else has posted. Lovely.

As another person who had Wendy and Joey and Joey’s fine accordion at my wedding, I wish you both (the newlyweds) all the best!! And Wendy & Joey, youses rock all the time, outta sight.

Wow, this really did make my day!

So great to see that love, and the kindness of strangers, still thrives.

Love and happiness to you all!

Made me cry.
May the days and the nights be sweet to you
May the wind and the rains be sweet to you
May the Earth and the seas be sweet to you
May all beings be sweet to you
May all beings be happy
May all beings be peaceful
May all beings be blissful.

Congrats ladies and way to go Joey for being a part of something so special. Love knows no gender! BLESSINGS to all of you!

Thanks for sharing – though I know in my heart that some day soon my American gay friends won’t have to go all the way to Canada just to get married, I can certainly see why they’d want to. Well done.

This is a terrific story about a wonderful event made better by your act of kindness. Congrats to the happy couple and also to the folks who took a chance to help them out!

Bravo!

Joey,

This is was the best blog entry I’ve read. And that’s out of a hell of a lot of blog entries.

My sweetie and I are coming up to my originla home and native land to get legally married between Christmas and New Years.You have changed the accordian for me for ever. I am asking her if we can have you play at ours (if that’s even an option). We met at Burning Man.

I see a whole new career as witnesses for Joey and Wendy and Allison! This was the best blog I’ve read all year! Made me all teary eyed with joy. Wendy and Joey and Allison, what you did is a mitzvah and a huge blessing upon you all!!

Amanda and Julie – A blessing for happiness and long life filled with joy upon you both!

I can’t wait to go to Toronto with my husband! We’ll definitely go to Smokeless Joes.

Eric

I loved reading about this. Thanks to a link from ejshea I got to read a wonderful modern fairy tale. I am so glad I found this blog. The whole thing is so cool!

Such a wonderful post, wonderful story, wonderful day!

Amanda and Julie .. congrats to the two of you; so glad you could come to Canada to make it legal! My gal and I are getting married in November.

Joey, Wendy and Allison … way to go!

Thank you for sharing .. nothing like a little tearing up over morning coffee.

HEY! THATS MY SISTER!
thats, incredible! i had entirelly forgotten they were getting married in Canada..
(my sister is Amanda)

[…] I love this story of a couple who arranged their wedding through Craigslist. They went to Canada to get married at a city hall, but needed a pair of witnesses, and didn’t know anybody there. In response to their query, a few great folks showed up. One of them blogged about the event, complete with the video of his cover of “Praise You” on accordion. It’s a really sweet story that, better still, turns out to have a really happy ending that unfolds in the comments on Metafilter. […]

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,
May you stay forever young.

Dylan 1973

i’m quite at a loss for words. thanks for sharing this wonderful wedding ceremony. simple, yet so beautiful and i’m really moved to tears. bless you guys 🙂

This was a great story..does anyone know how to reach “The Accordian Guy”??? If so please let me know!!! Thanks!

This was the best story i have read in a while. and to make it better it was a true story! I wish the newlyweds all the best in love, luck and life!

It is so wonderful that there are people who will take the time to do something so nice for a stranger. Those people are a dying breed so kudos to all that took the time to share in their day and make it special!

Tis a pleasure to have read this and I want to extend my congrats to the two young ladies. I wish you all the best you guys look so happy! 🙂 soo proud to see this kind of stuff happen. Thanks for posting 🙂

RE: Craigs List Wedding

You rock, Accordion Guy! I may change the direction of my accordion playing and ditch the polkas!

Just a short note to say Julie and I have been married now five years.

I am more sure now than I was on the very sleep-deprived, just-drug-ourselves-out-of-the-car-in-the-pouring-rain-afternoon we actually got married at Toronto’s City Hall.

Thank you, Joey, for being a part of it.

[…] was just reminded by Amanda that six years ago last Friday, I got to play a small part in a same-sex wedding at City Hall, and six years ago today, I posted an article about it: A Craigslist Wedding. It was an honour and […]

And another short note to say thank you, Joey, Wendy, M. & Allison, for being there for us.

Today we have been married seven years.

It’s hard to believe how much the world has changed in the past 7 years. What was truly scary and novel back then feels… almost commonplace today. But that is a tremendous credit to the voice of folks like the commenters on this thread (and the resultant metafilter thread) – particularly those who advocated outside their own self-interest on behalf of LGBT couples like us in ensuing years.

You all have made the difference in my world in a very tangible, very real way. I will never stop being grateful for serendipity and the advocacy, love and support of the internet. Thank you all.

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